No longer just a weekend amusement, go-karting has become the Little League of NASCAR driving, complete with nifty jumpsuits and pro techniques. Marshall Curry’s sleek documentary captures the second-hand thrill of watching tweens hurtle at 70 mph around a blacktop, as it follows three potential superkarters over the course of a single season. There’s polished, precocious 12-year-old Josh Hobson, a Jeff Gordon wanna-be who pursues sponsors as enthusiastically as he laps competitors; 11-year-old Annabeth Barnes, a third-generation racer toggling between girlhood and trailblazing adult ambitions; and 13-year-old Brandon Warren, a scrappy, danger-courting champion whose emergence from a broken home makes him the bleeding heart of the film.
These young racers aren’t the only ones with a need for speed: Curry and his team of editors keep things moving at a breakneck pace, and the more the movie methodically rotates through its story lines, the less it settles into a spontaneous, lifelike rhythm. Yet poised between childhood and adolescence, arrogance and insecurity, the kids still make for compelling subjects. All three visibly mature during the course of the shoot, yet it’s Warren’s journey—strong enough to sustain its own film—that overshadows the others’ concerns over which starter stock car to buy. Abandoned by his troubled dad and roiling with confusion, this underage Dale Earnhardt makes each upcoming race feels both irrelevant and utterly essential.—Eric Hynes
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